Monday, June 20, 2005


I am not sure anyone who doesn't have some Appalachian heritage in their bloodlines can possibly understand what it is like to be a person of Appalachian heritage. It is true that the people who settled those mountains have contributed greatly to American culture, giving the nation large portions of its vocabulary, and the Grand Ole Opry to boot.

What liberals do not seem to understand is that Appalachian people are not "oppressed," they are not ignorant, and they are not stupid. What caused me to go on such a rant was a program that I happened to see yesterday on PBS, I believe it was simply called Appalachia. In many ways, this program reminded me of the many stories that my Grandfather recounted to me as a little boy. I heard all about the coal strikes, the Matewan Affair, the WPA, the "Three C Corps," and the TVA.

I was also told, however, about how Northern white liberals made their way into Appalachia under the guise of wanting to "help the poor," or "educate the poor, ignorant mountain children," and they created more problems than they solved. It was these people who helped perpetuate the negative stereotypes of Appalachian people which still persist today. In the 1960's, Charles Kurault (whose work I normally admire) did a television special called Christmas in Appalachia, which highlighted the poverty of the region...but it also made Appalachian people appear ignorant and helpless.

Very often, this is how the federal government has viewed Appalachia in the past, and continues to do so today. People in Appalachia during the Depression and the era of the "Great Society," were seen by federal bureaucrats as a constituency to be bought, not as the free and independent-minded people that they really are. It is a disservice to the entire region, really. Their government has patronized them, and berated them before the nation, and then tried to buy their loyalty.

One of the most infamous stories I have ever heard involved a 1966 visit by Lyndon Johnson to West Virginia. He entered a barber shop in a small town and received a trim, chatting in a friendly way with the locals. On the wall of the barber shop was a portrait of the late President John F. Kennedy. After Johnson left the barber shop, he reportedly said to an aide: "I gave those bastards everything, Head Start, poverty programs, public works projects. What do I get? A G****mned picture of Jack Kennedy on the wall."

Appalachia always deserved better than what Appalachia got. Better treatment from the federal government is no exception.

This is the view of the beautiful New River Gorge in Fayette County, West Virginia from atop Hawk's Nest. Some of my ancestors helped settle this beautiful river valley, and my Grandfather once worked in a nearby coal mine as a young man.



At Tuesday, June 21, 2005 1:41:00 PM, Blogger Just Wandering said...

I did a lot of the Appalachian Trail this past summer and loved the people down south in the mountains. Kind, considerate, helpful.


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